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Reform Scotland News: 14 August 2013

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is highlighted and underlined.

In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News

Politics

Consumer Protection: Finance Secretary John Swinney has set out the Scottish Government’s plan to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ ombudsman for consumer complaints if Scotland were to become independent. It is proposed that more than 90 bodies could be merged into one which would be less costly to operate, although critics have raised concerns about having a separate system of regulation to the rest of the UK. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 3, Mail page 10, Courier page 21, P&J page 12)

Referendum campaign: Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has said the Yes campaign must show greater “vision, passion and emotion” if it is to win the independence referendum. He has also been criticised for labelling London and the south of England as a “cancer” on the financial prosperity of the rest of the UK (Scotsman page 5, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, Express page 10, Sun page 2, Mail page 10, P&J page 12). Meanwhile the head of Better Together has criticised a claim by US pollster Nate Silver that the Yes campaign have “virtually no chance” of winning, saying that many Scots are still undecided (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 2, Guardian page 5). Brian Wilson in the Scotsman criticises the use of civil servant and Scottish Government resources for the independence campaign, whilst Michael Fry in the Scotsman comments upon the international interest in the outcome of the independence referendum.  

Creative Scotland: Following news that shows about the independence referendum would not be included in next year’s Edinburgh International Festival, the new chief executive of Creative Scotland, Janet Archer, claims it is important for opinions on next year’s independence referendum to be expressed through the arts (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 9). Alan Taylor in the Herald comments that the arts should not be made to be apolitical. Jenny Hull in the Courier comments on the arts side-stepping the issue of Scottish independence.

Government support: A survey by ICM has found that there has been a sharp rise in voters’ faith in George Osborne and David Cameron’s handling of the economy. 40% of voters expressed confidence in the Chancellor and Prime Minister, a 12% rise from June, with confidence in their Labour counterparts Ed Balls and Ed Miliband trailing at 24%. (Scotsman page 11). However, Allan Massie in the Scotsman comments that there are still electoral challenges that the Conservative Party must overcome to win the next General Election, whilst Ian Bell in the Herald questions the signs of economic recovery.

Party funding: The Electoral Commission’s latest figures on party donations show Labour was given more than £2.4 million by trade unions in the second quarter of last year. However, whilst the Conservatives received £4.1million in large gifts, donations to Labour totalled only £3.1million. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats received donations in the will of retired nurse Joan Edwards, who left £520k to the government of the day. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 5, Express page 2, Sun page 2, Mail page 13)

Defence spending: A retired Irish Defence Forces colonel has claimed that the cost of an independent Scotland’s armed forces could be 60% less than the country’s current share of UK defence spending. (Herald page 6)

Parliamentary catering: Following a freedom of information request, it has been shown that the bill for subsidising the Westminster parliament’s bars and restaurants was more than £7million last year. (Herald page 3, Sun page 2)

Energy policy: Martin Livermore in the Scotsman argues that an independent Scotland would be unable to cope with the increased prices and reduced energy security that will be produced by the Scottish Government’s focus on renewable energy – with nuclear energy a preferable option. Meanwhile, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has criticised the building of wind farms, as figures show energy companies in Scotland were paid a total of £1.84m in constraint payments by the National Grid to not produce energy on August 3rd, because supply outstripped demand. (Herald page 10, Mail page 9)

Economy

High street sales: Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium show July saw the high streets of Scotland’s best performance for more than 2 years with total sales up 4% on July 2012. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 5, Sun page 2, Mail page 7, Courier page 33)

Food price warning: Research from Strathclyde University has warned that food prices could rise after more than a third of managed honey bee colonies in Scotland died last winter, almost double the numbers lost the previous year. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 10, Courier page 24)

House prices: A report from the Office for National Statistics shows that whilst UK house prices rose 3.1% in the first half of the year, there was a 0.9% decrease in prices in Scotland. It is suggested that the slight reduction in Scotland may be linked to the delay in the roll out of the UK Government’s help to buy scheme. Shelter Scotland have also stressed that thousands of people are still struggling to afford a home. (Scotsman page 16, Record page 8)

Export market: The Ernst & Young UK Goods Global Monitor has predicted that Scottish exports will boost economic recovery by achieving 2% annual growth in overseas sales by 2017, greater than the UK average of 0.3%. (Scotsman page 34, Herald page 24)

Health

Patient care: A review by the Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group has found that patients at Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Inverclyde Royal Hospital are being transferred out of intensive care when its is not in their best interests because of shortages of beds and staff. (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 1, Mail page 16)

Education

Employment: A study from The Institute for Public Policy Research has found three quarters of young people over 16 in all levels of education do not have a job, whilst the number of 16-24 year olds who have never had a job has almost doubled since 1998. The IPPR argue that it is vital to help young people gain work experience while studying. (Herald page 9)

Standard Grades: It has emerged that 3 out of Scotland’s 32 councils have ruled out Scottish Government proposals to cut the number of Standard Grade subjects studied by school pupils from eight to five, amid criticism of restricted pupil choice from Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Elizabeth Smith. (Mail page 8)

Transport

Train fares: Transport Minister Keith Brown has announced that peak-time train fares will rise by 3.1% from January, in line with inflation, whilst fares in (and to) England and Wales will rise 4.1%. Passenger groups have welcomed the Scottish Government’s cap on off-peak train tickets, which will remain frozen in order to encourage greater levels of train travel. Meanwhile, Transport Sectary Patrick McLoughlin has defended the bonuses of Network Rail chiefs amid the fare rises. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 4, Times page 7, Telegraph page 4, Express page 7, Sun page 9, Mail page 25, Courier page 20, P&J page 22)

Local Government

Climate Change: Three Scottish Councils (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen) have been praised for their action on climate change by a study of UK Local Authorities. Whilst cities in the rest of the UK were criticised, the report from Newcastle University claimed their findings reflected the Scottish Government’s progressive policy on carbon emissions. (Scotsman page 6)